When Even Hand-Churned Ice Cream Can’t Fix It.

Someone should open an ice cream shop with flavors like “Don’t be sad” and “You deserve better.” – Karen Salmansohn

I am going to binge.

It’s eight o’clock, and I’ve just hit “Leave” on my regular Tuesday night Zoom CEA-HOW meeting. Throughout the shares of the 40+ glowy faced participants, all of whom extol the virtues of abstaining from compulsive eating, all I can think is: I want ice cream.

But not just any ice cream. Hand-churned ice cream. Judging by the abundance of the we-do-it-by-hand ice cream stores in Idyllwild, California – the small, aptly named town in which I am vacationing – this is frozen debauchery at its finest.

And I am gonna get me some.

I put on my flip flops and leave my (actual) log cabin and walk into the dark of night (literally, not figuratively), where the temperature reads 90 degrees despite the light breeze.

I’m staying about half a mile from the main street and, as I walk, I am once again struck by how Idyllwild, despite the booming growth surrounding it, has maintained its old-timey charm. Everything here is made of wood – from the buildings that fill the downtown area, to the lodging tourist cabins, to the single-family homes that line the pine-tree-laden streets.

If Mt. Shasta and Ojai had a baby, it would be Idyllwild.

Don’t let the charming demeanor fool you … there is ice cream in those stores

I head toward the candy store I’d spotted two days earlier, its “We Sell Hand-Churned Ice Cream!!” sign jumping into view the minute I turned the wheel of my car from the highway onto the main Idyllwild road.

At the time, I’d quickly dismissed hand-churned ice cream as a substance no longer in my life plan, firmly placed in same category as the bazillion colorful cocktails I hadn’t consumed in the 33 years I’ve been sober – fine for other people but, thanks to my addictive nature and subsequent 12-step recovery programs, not for me.

Besides, I’d been doing really well.

I came into this much-needed vacation with 50+ days of “abstinence” (the food equivalent of “sobriety”), had seen significant improvements in my body thanks to a healthy food plan and rigorous workouts, and was slowly getting my chaotic life back on track. I wouldn’t dream of giving up that hard-earned progress for some stinking hand-churned ice cream that probably wasn’t all that amazing anyway.

But that was two days ago.

Two days of a solo vacation. Two days of loneliness and isolation. Two days of watching families laugh together while I eat dinner alone. Two days of a creeping fear it’s always going to be this way. I’m never going to find my special someone. I’m going to end up that woman: middle-aged, beauty faded, no kids, irrelevant.

Positive affirmations are no match to this type of soul terror that appears to have no end in sight.

There’s only one thing that’s going to fix this kind of pain.

I stride toward that cheery sign on the edge of town that promises a hand-churned end to the fear and pain that now consume me. What should be a peaceful evening walk considering all these trees and shit instead makes for an internal tennis match:

Don’t do this. What the fuck are you doing? These are just feelings and they will pass!!

It will just be this one time. I’ll just have a scoop of something chocolate and then I’ll get back on track.

When have you EVER had one scoop of ice cream? You’re going to end up binging this whole trip.

I didn’t have enough dinner. I just need, you know, a filler.

A filler? What the fuck is a filler?

And then I start praying. Please God, please God, please God, please God. Because I know that one bite will mean a binge and I’ll open the gates to hell and this time I might not ever get out.

I see the sign in the near distance and I feel an intense mixture of eagerness and sick-to-my-stomach dread. I’m really going to do this. I’m really going to throw away everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve over a scoop of something frozen that will somehow be made better because somebody hand-churned it. I turn the corner, already preparing my order in my mind. I’ll have two scoops of …

The store is closed.

I look around. Everything is closed. Apparently everything in Idyllwild closes at 8:00 pm. Fucking figures.

Except for one liquor store directly across the street that – according to the neon sign – sells bait, tackle, beer … and ice cream.

The ice cream will not be hand-churned but it will do the trick. Whatever is in that gallon tub will kill all of the loneliness, fear, and confusion I feel … and replace it with self-loathing, self-disgust, hopelessness and anguish.

I will wake up tomorrow hung over and suicidal. I will lie to my CEA-HOW sponsor and friends. I will binge all the next day and the next, not make it to my next destination, Palm Springs, where I am supposed to spend my upcoming birthday with my cousin John and then drive home in despair, vacillating between trying to figure out how I’m either going to get back on track .. or kill myself.

I turn my feet away from the liquor store and toward my log cabin, praying all the way. Thank you God, thank you God, thank you God.

The walk does me good and by the time I make it to bed, I am shaken but okay. I am not going to binge.

God did me a solid tonight.

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